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The Real Watergate Scandal

Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down
Narrated by: Chris Abell
Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Summary

An aging judge about to step down. Aggressive prosecutors friendly with the judge. A disgraced president. A nation that had already made up its mind....

The Watergate trials were a legal mess - and now, with the discovery of new documents that reveal shocking misconduct by prosecutors and judges alike, former Nixon staffer Geoff Shepard has a convincing case that the wrongdoing of these history-making trials was actually a bigger scandal than the Watergate scandal itself.

©2015 Geoff Shepard (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • John
  • 09-08-19

Astonishing Abuse of the Rule of Law

I write this review from two fundamental perspectives. First, unlike Geoff Shepard, I am not an admirer of Richard Nixon. On the contrary, my opinion of Nixon, apart from Watergate, has diminished over the years. I do not think he was a great President, certainly not on domestic policy. Nixon's foreign policy achievements, in my estimation, are overstated. Second, like Shepard, I am a lawyer who has practiced for decades. My practice has mainly been in the area of civil litigation.

The rule of law is fundamental. It is what separates democracies and and true republics from dictatorships and banana republics. What it means is that we all exist under a stable set of rules enforced equally by the courts. The rule of law is key to protecting rights and avoiding anarchy. It is one reason why international companies invest heavily in America and why millions want to come to America.

In the criminal justice system, the rule of law is supposed to apply equally to everyone. As Shepard notes, that includes the "bad guys" and is perhaps especially important to the bad guys. Shepard does a great job of outlining the fundamental procedural protections of the rule of law under our criminal justice system.

The violations of the rule of law Shepard lays out with respect to the Watergate "cover-up" defendants are shocking to me, and should be shocking to anyone familiar with how the judicial system is supposed to work. Prosecutors and judges, particularly in the federal courts, are held to high standards. Judges are expected, at the very least, to play it down the middle.

One of the most well-established requirements of the judicial system is that ex parte conferences with a judge are not permitted. Ex parte means a meeting where one side is represented, but not the other. Under no circumstances is it permissible for a judge to meet alone with prosecutors to discuss how the case should be prosecuted or the merits of the case. The ex parte contacts by the prosecution (and others) with Judge Sirica outlined in the book are stunning and extremely disturbing. Further, the full extent of the violations will never be known because the meetings took place in secret. Those meetings, the occurrence of which (if not the substance) appear to be well-documented, were a violation of the ethical rules applicable to lawyers and judges.

Shepard outlines other concerns that are almost equally troubling. There may well have been a failure to turn over exculpatory evidence. Witnesses may have been manipulated. The Special Prosecutor's office was politically staffed. It is all nasty stuff, for sure. The behavior of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is also highly questionable. It is pretty unbelievable that key decisions rendered en banc (by the entire court instead of a panel) were decided by terse per curium (unsigned) opinions. A lot of these issues are probably a little obtuse to the general reader, but, trust me, as a lawyer they are disturbing.

I do not think Shepard makes quite as convincing a case for rehabilitating Haldeman, Erlichman, Mitchell and, ultimately, Nixon. Shepard makes a decent case that an unbiased court--particularly if the abuses had come to light--might well have reversed the convictions of Haldeman, Erlichman and Mitchell on procedural grounds (Nixon had been pardoned by President Ford). If they were retried in an unbiased court, would they have been acquitted? I think that's a much more difficult lift and drifts into speculation.

At the end of the day, many will probably say, "so what? It's all history and they were bad guys anyway." But that's the point: The rule of law is there to protect everyone, including bad guys. Abuses should not be condoned, even decades later.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Gigeote
  • 14-10-19

Not for beginners

I chose this book because I knew very little about Nixon. The author is undeniably biased and the book has some pretty complicated political and legal concepts along with a large list of people to track and I had a hard time keeping up. But if nothing else, I've learned quite a few things that I can appreciate about Nixon.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kyle
  • 30-08-19

Persuasive and Objective

There were conspiracies, but don’t go believing them all!

The truth is examined here, bringing together many sources and facts in a way that is rarely done with such care. The author does not just dump information on us; The information is unrolled as to try to hold attention to the very end. I think the author is pretty persuasive.

After this reading this text, I’m convinced that the Nixon administration might have gone differently today. The whole Watergate Scandal might very well have met greater scrutiny if information could have been spread on social media. Alas, there was no social media, and the elites were able to pull a big one over on the public.

The voice actor reading this book for Audible is good. He’s pretty neutral, revealing no condescension or biases—which I appreciate.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Nancy & Greg
  • 30-07-19

This is a 5 Star Book Beyond Compare!

As a self-professed "student" of President Richard Nixon and Watergate, I have read so much about the subject that I truly thought I knew the major points of all aspects of this political "tragedy." After listening to Geoff Shepard's latest book, I realized I knew very little of the judicial & prosecutorial side of things. With the benefit of first-hand knowledge, years of research and access to documents that have been out of reach to many previous writers on the subject, Shepard presents a compelling argument that will have you reconsider your understand of the court-room side of the story, if not the foundational points of Watergate itself.

The book is so good, and filled with such detail, that as soon as I was finished I went back and began listening to it again. I want to absorb every nuance and bit of arcane detail to enhance my understanding of Watergate, its place in history and its relevance today. This book does it all and more. I highly, highly recommend.

12 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Evans
  • 28-08-19

Overturning popular elections isn't something new

The Nixon Administration was railroaded from office by the demonRats, courtesy of a rogue judge...

1 of 5 people found this review helpful